It was inevitable that one of the most popular anime’s of all time would eventually see a big screen adaptation…and it was also inevitable that it would also suck the big one, as fans were crying foul just days into its production. This isn’t odd for a strong fan base to decry a live action adaptation of a popular show, but there was a particular disgust brewing in the camps and no matter how much publicity the film received (which, if I recall right…was next to none. At least where I lived anyway…), nothing good was ever said about it. Critics panned it, fans continued to stick their middle finger up at it and the film went on to gross less than $10 million domestically, although it was a bit more successful overseas. Still, it was clear from the US reception that we aren’t likely to see another adaptation of Dragonball anytime soon.
Based on one of the most popular Japanese manga series of all time, Dragonball: Evolution follows a young warrior on an epic adventure to discover his destiny…and save the world from the forces of darkness. For his eighteenth birthday, mild-mannered Goku is given a mystical Dragonball, one of only seven in existence, which combine to grant a perfect wish to whoever possesses them. But an ancient warlord named Piccolo has escaped eternal imprisonment and is on his own quest to gather the Dragonballs. Goku must enlist the help of his friends—and the power of his evolving martial arts skills—to defeat Piccolo before it’s too late! Packed with spectacular visual effects, high-flying action, and over an hour of hard-hitting extras, Dragonball: Evolution Z-Edition brings the legend to life as never before!
Some movies you can go into knowing full well they’ll suck and still be surprised that is genuinely as bad as you’d heard. It’s happened with only a few films that I’ve watched, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III being one of them. I can now add Dragonball Evolution to the list, as I was really just blown away by the mediocrity of it all. The level of blandness is just staggering; it’s under an hour and a half long and as fast paced it is, it just never becomes interesting.
Part of this is because of the characters. The outfits and looks of them aren’t particularly horrible, per say, but after staring at Goku in anime form for years, watching a very American Justin Chatwin take him over just…makes no freakin’ sense. I mean I’m already biased against the show because I never enjoyed it when it was dominating Toonami back in the day (to the point where it’d be an hour or two of Dragonball for every hour of Batman and Superman cartoons, something I immediately related to evil in my youth), but even I can cry foul on this one. Emmy Rossum I will admit doesn’t look bad in her role, but it’s just like a teen angst film; maybe that’s what the cartoon was like, I don’t honestly know. But I know that this film was just…ridiculously bad.
Knowing that this film was going to suck when you slide the disc into the player allows you to anticipate either a disappointing or boring mess, but Dragonball Evolution never really even got that far. It just was a very confusing film that almost felt like it should’ve had a longer run time just to explain things a bit more clearly. The overall gist of the Dragonballs themselves and Piccolo’s reign of terror are clear, yes, but the terminology thrown around is a bit confusing at times. I didn’t even bother to figure out what it was all about either as I really didn’t care.
I love to become invested in a film when it gives me a genuine reason to be, but there just isn’t anything in this film that’s worthwhile. It’s made to appeal to the younger market (PG rating!) while being based off of a violent and genuinely visually awesome anime that a film could in no way ever hope to replicate (unless they go a Speed Racer route). I had hoped I’d at least just get a cheesily enjoyable action flick out of this mess, but instead…I just got a mess. There’s nothing to enjoy here because what isn’t ambiguous is cliché and boring. Skip It.
Fox has released Dragonball Evolution in a special “Z Edition” release, because one subtitle for a film isn’t enough. In fact, why was this film even tagged with “Evolution” on the end? This was the first film, shouldn’t it have just been called Dragonball? Eh whatever. The packaging is an Eco Elite Blu-ray case that house two discs (second disc is the digital copy). Packaging is what you’d expect and everyone is all properly serious looking, except for Goku who is letting out a nice belch on the cover.
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded (@33.5mbps) transfer and…well, it’s a modern film, what do you expect? The films got an interesting color palette, almost tinted orange at times (that may just be all the campfire sequences giving that illusion though…and Goku’s orange attire). It’s a nice, clean and clear transfer that doesn’t boast a single bit of transfer issues. There is a heavy amount of grain left intact as well, to give the film a slightly more film like appearance. Audio is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix and as can be expected from an action film, the LFE channel is quite active, as are the surrounds. Not demo-worthy, mind you, but still an enjoyable experience. About the only enjoyable element of watching the movie at all, really.
• Goku’s Quest – BD Exclusive scavenger hunt game
• Eight Deleted Scenes
• Goku’s Workout: Stunt Work featurette
• Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making a Scene
• Fox Movie channel Presents Life After Film School with Justin Chatwin
• Dragonball Gag Reel
• Brian Anthony “Worked Up” Music Video
The “gag” reel is nothing of the sort and is mostly just behind the scenes footage and wire work. I really love gag reels when they’re genuinely of actors flubbing lines, but when you dupe me into thinking they’re actually something else…well, shame on you!
Overall a decent release for a film that was pretty much a giant bomb (domestically, at least). I’d recommend it for fans, but even fans detest this movie, so that seems kind of pointless as well. So you can just give it a Rental if you’re curious—it at least looks and sounds good.
Dragonball Evolution is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.